Living in the UK it’s not uncommon to hear of minor disputes between neighbours. Sometimes it’s about playing loud music, or it might be because a hedge is grown too long. But what if your neighbours are elephants? While they don’t often play loud music, they rarely respect boundary hedges, and could easily destroy a whole year’s crop for a small scale farmer.
This is exactly the challenge that I found on a recent trip to Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. A number of farmers were unable to farm their land for fear that the elephants from the nearby forests would trample or eat all their crops. Practical Action had been working with these and other farmers, and when faced with this problem, they came up with an ingenious solution- live fencing made of palmyre trees.
Palmyre tress also provide a harvestable crop (nuts and palm leaves), and once mature, one row at a time can be cut for wood, while still retaining the integrity of the boundary. It all adds up to a low cost sustainable solution far superior to an electric fence.
I don’t anticipate planting many palmyre fences in my village in the UK, but this story was a great reminder to me how often the simplest locally developed technologies, are often the most effective.